Originally posted on CompleteCampaigns.com and written by Cheryl Katz and Deborah Keltner
A critical component of every campaign’s outreach efforts is the development and execution of a relevant, consistent, and well-managed brand. There is, however, a lot of confusion about what a brand actuallyis.
A brand is not a logo, a website, or a brochure. A brand is the promise that your campaign is making. It is demonstrated by your campaign logo, slogan, website, brochures, and direct mail campaigns. Further, it is demonstrated by the way your staff answers the phones, the way you conduct yourself during public events, and the way you thank donors. It is infused into all actions and interactions.
It is the One Single Idea that ties all of your messages together.
- Why are you meaningful?
- To whom are you meaningful?
- How do you reach your target audience?
- What do you need to do to secure their vote?
Build a comprehensive campaign brand with a simple message.Communicate your message visually in a way that is clear, concise, and consistent with your campaign’s value propositions.
Brand your differentiators – not just your name. The messages that you develop should immediately communicate why you are a better choice than the incumbent.
A fantastic example of building a simple, steady brand was in the Presidential election of 1864. The United States was divided between North and South in a war to decide the fate of the Union, and President Lincoln was running for re-election. He ran on the simple message:Don’t change horses in the middle of a stream.
What’s more reliable than your trusty horse, and why would you abandon him when you’re most vulnerable? This slogan conveyed the steady resolve that soldiers and civilians alike were seeking to get them through the war.
Manage relationships in a way that benefits your campaign. Have a plan to keep interested constituents engaged with your campaign and spreading the word. Talk to your target market and establish an understanding of what moves them and how you can serve them. Lincoln’s job was to convey a relatively simple message since his constituent base wanted to preserve the United States and end the war victorious.
Not every candidate has will have such a one-sided constituent base during campaign season, making developing a strong message both more difficult and more important to the success of the campaign. Every interaction that a constituent has with your campaign is relevant to every other interaction. When someone calls to donate money, the experience that they had with your website will resonate during their phone call. The positive experiences that they have when they talk to your staff will serve your campaign when they receive your direct mail.
All of these interactions will serve to support your One Single Idea. Once you have isolated the One Single Idea, you can build the suite of materials and strategies that will communicate it to the public. A campaign website is the most efficient way to communicate your message and your brand. It should be easy to navigate, present the most important messages first, and provide easy ways for users to get involved with your campaign – whether it is by volunteering, forwarding campaign information to friends, or donating money directly.
Your campaign should brand its email newsletter, sign up forms, and phone scripts, as well. From there, TV, radio and direct mail should tie in to the same brand – making it easy for voters to identify you. Let’s say you’re an incumbent public official running for re-election. You decide on the brand, Experience, when it’s needed most.
Your TV spots will keep this phrase displayed on the screen, re-iterate it in the voice-over, and use images that expound on the idea – the candidate working behind a desk.
Your radio ads will echo the slogan in a confident, parental voice. Your website banner will prominently display the slogan in clear, conservative colors and fonts. Website visitors should see the slogan on every page, and it should be repeated or echoed in the site content wherever appropriate. Visitors should also be able to subscribe to your email newsletter, and messages should reflect the same basic elements as your website. Your direct mail will also feature the slogan prominently, using still images similar to those in the TV spots, and fonts and colors reflecting the website.
To borrow some imagery from Lincoln, you want to choose your horse early, and ride it all the way to the finish. Switching horses will weaken your brand, and confuse voters who might otherwise cast their ballots for you.
Here are some common mistakes campaigns make:
- Email newsletters don’t match the website. Your commitment to your ideals is underlined by your commitment to your brand. Switching colors, fonts and layouts between your website and email template undermines your brand.
- Website does not have consistent banners and navigation. Make sure your main navigation links are in the same place on every page, and that the heading banner matches. Your website is not effective if it’s too difficult for the user to navigate.
- A different slogan is featured in each media piece. You may as well be multiple candidates, if you’re not going to decide on a strong message and stick to it.
Your brand is your promise. It is the One Single Idea that your target market will receive with every interaction with your campaign. Plan it wisely and invest in the strategies that will showcase your differentiators and compel your audience to act. Once you establish your brand, stay true to it. Your logo should be used consistently. Your tagline should never waver. Think of the colors, words, and images that hold the One Single Idea together, and apply them to everything.